Anime 101

There was a formspring question a while back about what anime you would show a class, we liked it so we expanded it into a little post. Imagine you are a professor. You have students who have anime studies as a major. What titles should they be familiar with in their first year that introduces them to the major? Lists like this are never really complete especially when working in some sort of restriction like our 10 TV series and 5 movies but there is only so much time in a semester. It also becomes more difficult as the years go by and more and more shows are produced. But you can still attempt a good foundation. It is important to note that not all of these titles are necessarily the best representations of their genre. Titles were often picked because it helped show the full range of what anime has to offer more than being the pinnacle. The shows here are meant to show what anime can produce in order to help the student decide where they want to focus their studies. So here’s what we thought of, what would be on your list?

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #111

Since the 7th game of Umineko is so game changing I am going to try to just discuss the essence of the episode without giving away major spoilers especially for people who read the blog but are a few games behind. The two new characters seen in the portrait above are Willard H Wright and Lion Ushiromiya. Lion is a fascinating character that is essentially several huge reveals just by existing. Will is the Battler stand in for this chapter and I thought his big entrance was fairly entertaining and cool. Lion and Will’s interaction is playful although all the butt pinching going on has solidified that they will be shipped forever. When we get into the meat of the story we learn Kinzo’s back story, the identity of Beatrice, Battler’s sin, get some hits as to the solutions to some of the locked room mysteries, and the probable confirmation of one of the mostly hotly debated theories in the series. We also get some powerful scenes that I thought were quite moving. Also unless we are being misled there is some seriously twisted relationships in Umineko and the people involved do not realize are as twisted as they are.  It probably makes me a weenie but I found parts of the end of Requiem of the Golden Witch really hard to read. If you have come to love these characters the last chapter is brutal. Although how authentic how authentic that ending is has yet to be seen.  When the last game comes out I will probably do a total spoiler filled review of the series a whole but until then I just have to wait to see what answers 2011 finally gives us with Twilight of the Golden Witch.

I picked up How to Train Your Dragon in a Black Friday sale but didn’t get around to watching it till the Christmas holidays. The animation of the film really stands out, especially from some of the other Dreamworks properties, it was lush and gorgeous; the dragons were very animated and their designs were quirky; plus the flying scenes were breath-taking. The story is a simple one of trying to fit in to your dragon-killing village of vikings (we’ve all been there, right?) but Hiccup is much happier inventing things which often gets him into trouble. After one of his inventions actually works and takes down a rare dragon, their fates become intertwined when he realizes he can’t bring himself to hurt the creature. This story has a classic feel of acceptance, growing up, and having the bravery to do what is right. While I did find the relationships between Hiccup and the other kids a little too easier resolved, it was enough. I found it a very enjoyable ride! After seeing it, I do imagine it will be an Oscar contender this year. Continue reading

Anime and Manga of the Month: May

Manga of the Month
Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya

When John Fuller of New York’s branch of Kinokuniya was asked which manga sold best in Japanese but did not do anywhere near as well in English his answer was Nodame Cantabile. At first he thought it was because there was no English language version of Nodame Cantabile but Dallas Middaugh of Del Rey pointed out that they where in fact releasing the English version of Nodame. So why is Nodame selling like hotcakes in Japanese but not here is the U.S.? It’s clearly another example of the difference between Japanese and American tastes but I’m not so sure it should be. They are missing out of a hysterical manga.

Nodame is the story of a eccentric, slovenly piano student named Megumi Noda. She is in love with the genius piano student Shinichi Chiaki who wishes to become a world famous conductor. The story itself is of how their mismatched personalities interact with other equally bizarre student as they try to make their mark in orchestral music world. I feel this is the perfect transitional manga to go from the world of shojo to the world of josei. It has much of the humor and feel of a shojo manga while retaining the story structure and emotional maturity of a josei manga.

There is a live action TV series, an anime, and several video games all based on the manga as well.

The interesting thing about Nodame Cantabile is that Nodame and her story is loosely based on a real person. Apparently Tomoko Ninomiya saw the a picture of a messy piano student’s room and was inspired to pitch the idea about the life of such a student to her publisher. Ninomiya dedicates each book to the real-life Nodame. In fact, she keeps in contact with her and even bases certain story lines on her real life adventures. I think this is partially why the characters in Nodame feel so real. Rumor has it that Narutaki is loosely based off of Nodame as well.

Gyabo!

Anime of the Month
BECK Mongolian Chop Squad by Madhouse Studios

Koyuki saves a strange looking dog and much to his surprise it changes his life. He meets Ryusuke, a quite talented guitarist for his young years, who inspires him to learn guitar. He also later meets Maho who eventually encourages him to sing because she recognizes his talent being a singer herself. As Koyuki grows and finally enters a band with Ryusuke at the helm we become part of the struggle to get discovered. Any story involving music can be greatly enhanced by a medium with sound, especially when it is done well. BECK is a great example of this, it really comes to life on the screen as Koyuki discovers his love and talent for song. You can feel the uncertainty of stepping on stage and the triumph as the crowd cheers. The interaction of the characters boasts angst but also truth, and as friendships are formed and tested a mighty cast appears. The last few episodes of the series are incredible uplifting and you can’t help but want BECK to succeed. The animation is good, the story is honest (albeit over the top), and the music is great (gotta love that opening by Beat Crusaders which sets a great tone for the series). And you can buy the series in a little min-amp box, how cool is that?